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A Mid-Winter's Dream

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Summer along the Big Wood River explodes with life—riotous tangles of leaves, bird song, and groups of mule deer fording the stream—but this winter day whispers of survival. White aspens and black cottonwoods stand in skeletal relief against the gray ceiling of a building storm. Except for a lone ouzel dipping in open riffles or a single mallard whistling overhead, the river seems devoid of life.

To understand why any sane man or woman would willingly spend hours in the freezing, waist-deep water of an ice-choked river, you must realize that fly fishermen are an obsessive breed. Consider the equipment they need to catch a six-inch trout: rods, reels, waders, nets, vests, float tubes, books on streamside entomology, hundreds of floats, sinkers, tippits, clippers, hemostats, repellents, and a new SUV to haul it all to streams near and far. And that doesn’t include flies—thousands, even ten thousands of flies. A fly fisherman’s array of fur, feather, and floss imitations is large and diverse, often impulsively acquired, and invariably expensive.

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